Here’s an example of how the Kingdom of God eludes the haughty and comes to the humble. This one time, a proud scholar sought to test Jesus and pit his own intellect against that of the Master. He addressed his opponent, “With all due respect, Teacher, where do you stand on the issue of the resurrection? How could I lose my inheritance as a Son of Abraham?” The scholar drew back, waiting for a counter argument. Perhaps he secretly hoped Jesus would dig his own grave by adding to or subtracting from the law, which was strictly forbidden.
Jesus simply replied, “Have you looked into the Law given to Moses? What do you see within those words?”
As if the whole argument was familiar territory the scholar answered immediately, quoting from the Law, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your being–from the very zeal of your heart, from the very recesses of your soul, from the very fibre of your muscle and from the very thoughts of your mind.’”
Pausing only for effect he added, “And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’”.
“You have answered with literal precision”, Jesus replied. “Now if you do what you have just said you will really live”.
Seeking to validate himself, the scholar asked Jesus, “Tell me plainly, who is my neighbour so that I may do him no wrong?”
Jesus responded with a story so simple and profound that it exposes the motives of all who hear it. He replied, “A man was going down from the temple city of Jerusalem on his way to Jericho. He was set upon by evil men. These men robbed him and then beat him until he was unrecognisable. As a final insult they stripped him bare. They dragged him into a ditch to hide the evidence of their wrong-doing.
Some time after, a man of God was going down the same road from the temple city (the centre of Jewish and Samaritan worship) toward Jericho. Perhaps he smelt the strange odour first or perhaps he could hear a faint moan, but when he laid eyes on wounded, naked flesh he drew himself away in fear and loathing. Not long after that, a servant of God’s temple came upon the same sight, with all its horrid smell of death-warmed-up. He too felt nothing toward the dying man and also chose to do nothing for him. The only care given by these two men was for themselves and their reputations.
A third man was going down the road that day and came to the exact spot. Despite the stench and filth and hopelessness, he saw the beaten man for who he was–a man like him. Humbled and moved with compassion, he came down from his donkey and drew close. He blessed the half-dead man; cleaning his wounds by covering them with a soothing balm of oil and wine. He bound the man’s lesions using what little he had–even his own clothes! He did not stop there. He lifted the man, now covered, onto his own donkey and led them to the nearest town. This was at considerable risk to his own safety, for it slowed his journey through dangerous territory. Indeed, honouring this injured man had changed his entire course. What a sight they must have looked together as they arrived at the local inn! Yet his compassion did not stop there. The next day the man took out two silver coins, and seemingly without a second thought, gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Be sure to look after his every need,’ he said, ‘and when I come back, I will repay you in full for any outstanding expenses”.
“How do you feel toward each of these men? This last man exceeded all your expectations didn’t he?”
“Did I mention that this third man of God was a Samaritan, whom you would never look up to? Does that change your opinion of his actions? Who would you want to be your neighbour, so that he might do right by you?”
The expert in the law replied carefully, “The one who saw the injured man and honoured him as his brother. He’s the one whose compassion surpasses belief.”
Jesus compelled the scholar, “Look, you are chosen by God–continue worshipping in the Lord’s way, even when the task of love is unattractive, costs you dearly and does not seem rewarding in your eyes. Go and do what is right–even when you find yourself saying, “I didn’t think loving God would look like this!”